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Monday, June 27, 2022

Jon Rahm, from learning English with Eminem to leader in the US

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In everything he does, there is one constant in Jon Rahm. He wants to be the best. The same competitive streak beats playing the US Open as sharing a game of Mus with friends when he returns home for Christmas. He oozes confidence and laughs at the thought that some might mistake him for one bilbao. In fact, it’s the belief that gave Eduardo Celles, his coach, the goosebumps when, during a car ride, the student told him without a doubt that he was going to be number one in the world. The boy was 13 years old. Jon Rahm wanted to be the best and he was. He swore to win a big one and he fulfilled it. In the race, he’s cleared every obstacle, from being born with a clubfoot to suffering with English. Today he is not only one of the best Spanish athletes and at the age of 27 an integral part of the golfing elite. His fierce loyalty to the American circuit (PGA Tour) in the war against the Saudi league has strengthened him as a reference and leader even outside of the Greens.

It is shocking that the best defense of the American product was not made by a man of the house, but by a Basque from Barrika who could barely speak English when he arrived at the University of Arizona. “He won’t make it. He’ll probably be out of here after the first semester,” said Tim Mickelson, Phil’s brother and coach of the Sun Devils golf team, his assistant. Little did he know that this young man would not give up so easily. The ability to overcome was in his DNA since he was born with his right foot rotated 90 degrees. When the doctors placed him in the arms of his parents, Ángela and Edorta, after first aid, the baby’s leg was in a cast. A struggle began that took him twice to the operating room and forged an iron character. He played football goalkeeper because he had less strength in that limb and played all kinds of sports. There was never a limit in his mind. When golf crossed his path (after 1997’s Ryder, his father began practicing), Jon’s love changed. The shorter and thinner right leg has led him to one swing Special.

If he couldn’t speak English, he wouldn’t give up on his dream because of it. He had already hardened his heart when he left his parents’ house at the age of 16 and his brother Eriz, who was six years his senior, to fly to the Blume house in Madrid. Now he would convince Tim Mickelson that he was wrong. The recipe went through music. “My father always told me that the future of golf was in the United States. There aren’t many Spanish golfers who come here university, but he picked me up and said: ‘The worst thing that can happen to you is that you learn English,'” Rahm recalls of those years. “I knew part of the language, but the hardest part was the pronunciation. And that’s where rap comes in. That’s a lot of very quick words. If I could learn that, anything would be possible.” Love the way you lie, by Eminem and swimming pool by Kendrick Lamar, kept playing. “It took me four years to know everything,” the Basque recalls of Lamar’s lyrics.

The boy made progress. Tim Mickelson banned him from speaking Spanish to a fellow Mexican student at the university. The punishment was a squat and a push-up for every word he heard her say in Spanish. Meeting Kelley Cahill was another blessing. Biology student and javelin thrower Kelley was dressed as an NFL umpire when she saw Jon at a costume party. He was a SWAT agent. Little by little, the difficult life of arriving in the United States gave way to a happy consolation. If progress had been slow with English, it was lightning with golf clubs. He soon began practicing with Phil Mickelson, with whom he even crossed 18-hole bets despite Rahm only having $40 in his pocket. It was victory or victory. And he won, leaving the champion speechless.

Rahm signs autographs at Brookline.Jared C Tilton (AFP)

The pieces fitted together until they underwent a profound transformation. The teenager, who was listening to Eminem, is now married to Kelley Cahill, father of US-born son Kepa, and they are expecting a brother in August. An American manager, Jeff, carries his diary and the figure of him caddy, Adam Hayes, was another important link in his stability. Today Rahm gets along wonderfully in this English that suffocated him. His decisive speech last Tuesday in defense of the PGA Tour penetrated the circuit and the American press. “Yes, the money is great, but will my lifestyle change if I get $400 million? No, not a bit. I’ve never played for money, I play for the love of sport, history and legacy, and I want to play against the best,” Rahm argued. The language is so natural to him that when the Spanish FA asked him to send a video in support of the National Open, he sent it in English.

Among the fans, Rahmbo is one of their favorite players celebrated at this US Open in Brookline. Another problem is the focus on television broadcasts in the United States. Despite being ranked number two in the world and regularly topping the rankings in many tournaments, there are times when his shots are rarely seen on TV. Even at that American Open, where he entered as the defending champion, his opening day on Thursday was not among the groups picked up by national television. The Basque expressed some sense of discrimination in June 2020: “As a Hispanic immigrant in the United States, while I don’t even come close to experiencing what some people have endured in this world, I have been able to tell from the mere fact of how Spanish too speaking, even to myself, they looked at me badly and with contempt.

Jon Rahm writes diary. It helps you clear your head. These first few pages written in Spanish today can be written fluently in English.

Also a speaker against racism

Tiger Woods broke a racial barrier, but golf remains a predominantly white sport. The Masters, for example, honored the late Lee Elder, the first black man to play in Augusta (1975), just two years ago.
Rahm also took a stand against racism in 2020, when the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of a police officer shook the United States and gave birth to the Black Lives Matter movement. “I invite my colleagues to support the causes of eliminating hatred, intolerance and racism. I love to think outside the box and see the diversity of faces, men and women, young and old. Let’s continue to support our African American community and accept our differences,” Rahm published on his social networks, joining the civic demands to the country that adopted him. Rahm accompanied his message with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “No one is born hating another person because of their race, background or religion. Men must learn to hate, and when they learn to hate they can be taught to love, since love comes more naturally to the human heart.”

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